Jan 29, 2014

Powertraveller's modular charger powers up by crank, sun, wind and water

Expedition users can switch between the turbine, solar and hand crank power
Powertraveller adds an ultra-versatile portable charger to its gadget charger line. Not only does the new Powermonkey Expedition include standards like a clamshell solar panel, AC adapter and crank charger, it complements them with a portable wind/river turbine. Carry the kit on your adventures and simply connect the generator component that's most suitable for the current conditions. .. Continue Reading Powertraveller's modular charger powers up by crank, sun, wind and water

California drought: 17 communities could run out of water within 60 to 120 days, state says

Mercury News, CA - As California's drought deepens, 17 communities across the state are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days, state officials said Tuesday.

In some communities, wells are running dry. In others, reservoirs are nearly empty. Some have long-running problems that predate the drought.

The water systems, all in rural areas, serve from 39 to 11,000 residents. 

And it could get a lot worse.

"As the drought goes on, there will be more that probably show up on the list," said Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for the state Department of Public Health.

Device Mines Precious Phosphorus From Sewage

Scientists predict that the scarcity of phosphorus will increase over the next few decades as the growing demand for agricultural fertilizer depletes geologic reserves of the element. Meanwhile, phosphates released from wastewater into natural waterways can cause harmful algal blooms and low-oxygen conditions that can threaten to kill fish. Now a team of researchers has designed a system that could help solve both of these problems. It captures phosphorus from sewage waste and delivers clean water using a combined osmosis-distillation process. The system improves upon current methods by reducing the amounts of chemicals needed to precipitate a phosphorus mineral from the wastewater, thus bringing down the cost of the recovery process.
Please continue reading published on Slashdot // visit site

Megatons To Megawatts Program Comes To a Close

In the aftermath of the Cold War, the disintegrating Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and tons of weapons-grade fissile material. In the economic and political turmoil, many feared that it would fall into unfriendly hands. However, thanks to the doggedness of an MIT professor, Dr. Thomas Neff, 500 metric tons of weapons grade material made its way into nuclear reactors in the United States through the Megatons to Megawattsprogram. During the program, about 10% of all electricity generated in the U.S. came from weapons once aimed at the country. Now, after nearly 20 years, the program is coming to an end. The final shipment of Soviet-era uranium, now nuclear fuel, has arrived in Baltimore.

Please continue reading published on Slashdot // visit site

Jan 28, 2014

American #wind #energy to be stored in Canada using giant hydro "battery"

A recent deal to build a proposed transmission line that crosses the international border with Canada has the potential to enable the storage of abundant wind power from the US in a giant hydro “battery” in Manitoba.

A pair of utilities, Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro, have inked a Renewable Optimisation Agreement (ROA) under which electricity from excess wind produced in North Dakota can be stored in Manitoba’s hydro reservoir when loads and prices are low, with the potential for selling that power back onto the huge United States Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) market at times when needs are high.

The deal involves the pair building a new 400 mile 500 kV transmission line, with a capacity of 750 megawatts, connecting northeastern Minnesota with Winnipeg, at a cost of $1bn split between the two utilities.

Manitoba Hydro is already an external participant with MISO, as a large hydroelectric system with some of the lowest electricity prices in North America.
“We can act as a rechargeable battery for the MISO market,” says Manitoba Hydro Division Manager of Power Sales and Operations David Cormie. “The arrangement we have with Minnesota Power is that they are going to invest in new transmission in the US, and Manitoba Hydro will invest in the transmission in Canada, and at the same time Manitoba Hydro is going to build new power dams that create more storage capability.”

The deal with Minnesota Power would use 51 per cent of the proposed line’s capacity, leaving the remainder available for other US utilities to do the same.
Huge “battery” to the north

The province lies at the centre of a 400,000 square mile watershed that drains from the Rocky Mountains to the west and Lake Superior to the east. The Nelson River drains north to Hudson Bay with an average flow at the sea of 115,000 cubic feet per second - eight times that of the Colorado River.

Manitoba's 1,000 feet of hydro-electric potential remains only half developed and two new hydro projects with associated storage planned for the Nelson River has created the opportunity for further interconnecting the Manitoba battery to MISO.

“We are able to able to operate our hydro system in a manner that takes energy out of the market when the prices are low, and returns the energy to the market in periods when the prices are high,” Cormie explains.

“But the new storage capability of our hydro system can only be useful if the transmission line capacity to the market gets bigger. So between the storage that Manitoba Hydro is developing and Minnesota Power’s willingness to build new transmission, we in effect are making the battery bigger, enabling more two-way trade in electricity.”

Please read By Susan Kraemer at:

Outbreak of exposure to a novel synthetic cannabinoid known as "black mamba."

An outbreak of exposure to a novel synthetic cannabinoid was rapidly controlled in Colorado, according to a letter to the editor published in the 23 Jan 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Andrew A Monte, MD, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues discuss an outbreak of exposure to a novel synthetic cannabinoid known as "black mamba."

The researchers identified 263 cases that met the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment case definition between 21 Aug and 19 Sep 2013. A total of 76 patients presented to emergency departments at 2 teaching hospitals where exposure was confirmed. Most cases involved single-agent ingestions. The patients were mainly young men, and symptoms included altered mental status, tachycardia followed by bradycardia, and seizures. For most patients, care was managed in the emergency departments, although 10 patients were admitted to intensive care units. The outbreak ended abruptly, with only 10 cases reported from 13 Sep to 25 Oct 2013.

The novel synthetic cannabinoid molecule, ADB-PINACA, was identified consistently in multiple brand products. Exposure to ADB-PINACA correlated with neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity. Dissemination of case management guidelines by the poison center and public health outreach efforts were successfully implemented to limit the outbreak.

"Medical toxicologists, public health officials, and law enforcement officials worked together to determine the cause of symptoms, develop the most effective treatment, and limit the distribution of this novel and potentially dangerous synthetic cannabinoid," the authors write. 

Monte AA, Bronstein AC, Heard KJ, Iwanicki JL: An Outbreak of Exposure to a Novel Synthetic Cannabinoid. N Engl J Med 2014; 370(4): 389-90; <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1313655>.

CRS — Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework

Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Thousands of oil and chemical spills of varying size and magnitude occur in the United States each year. A recent spill of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River in early January 2014 in and near Charleston, WV, illustrates the potential magnitude of such incidents that can have broad impacts on local populations. When a spill occurs, state and local officials located in proximity to the incident generally are the first responders and may elevate an incident for federal attention if greater resources are desired. In the case of the 4-methylcyclohexane methanol spill in West Virginia, President Obama issued a federal emergency declaration on January 10, 2014, to provide alternative water supplies to affected individuals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also is supporting state efforts to respond to the spill.

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, often referred to as the National Contingency Plan (NCP), establishes the procedures for the federal response to oil and chemical spills. The scope of the NCP encompasses discharges of oil into or upon U.S. waters and adjoining shorelines and releases of hazardous substances into the environment. The NCP was developed in 1968 and has been revised on multiple occasions to implement the federal statutory response authorities that Congress has expanded over time. Three federal environmental statutes authorized the development of the NCP: the Clean Water Act, as amended; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, as amended; and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Jan 27, 2014

TRI-MEweb and RY 2013 TRI Reporting Forms & Instructions Availability

TRI, EPCRA, RMP & Oil Information Center: The newest version of the TRI-MEweb online reporting system, as well as the Reporting Year (RY) 2013 TRI Reporting Forms & Instructions manual are now available.  Effective January 21, 2014, facilities must use TRI-MEweb to submit TRI reporting forms to EPA (except for trade secret information, which facilities will still complete on paper) according to the Electronic Reporting of Toxics Release Inventory Data Final Rule (link included).  All RY 1991 to RY 2013 TRI forms in hardcopy format that are mailed to the Data Processing Center in Fairfax, Virginia, will be returned to the sender with a notice that forms must be submitted using the TRI-MEweb application.  Facilities must submit TRI forms for RY 2013 by July 1, 2014.

Login to your CDX user account and access the TRI-MEweb application at the following URL:

Guidance on using TRI-MEweb to submit TRI forms is available at the following URL:

The RY 2013 TRI Reporting Forms & Instructions is available at the following URL: 

Free Webinar - Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program: A Holistic Continuous Improvement Framework

This webinar will discuss the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products program, a multi-attribute, continuous improvement methodology that provides a path to manufacturing healthy and sustainable products for our world. It requires a paradigm shift in thinking about how a product is designed, what it contains, how it is made, and where it goes after use. As a guidance system for product designers and manufacturers, the program leads to the creation of innovative products that redefine quality and beauty.  Thu, Feb 13, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EST

The program guides continual improvement towards products that are: 
- made with materials that are safe for humans and the environment 
- designed so all ingredients can be reused safely by nature or industry 
- assembled and manufactured with renewable, non polluting energy 
- made in ways that protect and enrich water supplies, and 
- made in ways that advance social and environmental justice. 

Presenter: Susan Klosterhaus, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute 

Register at:

Jellyfish impact on nuclear #Energy: Forget earthquakes and tsunamis: Jellyfish are fast-growing threat

Forget earthquakes and tsunamis: one of the fastest-growing threats to nuclear operations could come from blobby, brainless creatures.

As threats go, the humble jellyfish hardly looks like a formidable opponent.

With a body that is between 95% and 98% water, plus no digestive or nervous system, the average Cnidarian would seem unlikely to imperil mankind's mightiest power generating systems, for example. But you might be surprised.

In September a swarm of moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), a species that is not even dangerous to swimmers, took on one of the biggest nuclear plants on the planet… and won.

The umbrella-shaped creatures clogged a cooling water intake at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden and forced operator E.ON Kärnkraft Sverige to shut down the third reactor, cutting off 1,450MW of generation for several days.

Nor was this the first time jellyfish had struck a nuclear power plant. Oskarshamn had experienced the problem previously, in 2005. The following year Chubu Electric Power Co's Hamaoka plant in Japan had to cut its power output while dealing with a jellyfish blockage.

And in 2011, moon jellyfish swarms caused shutdowns at EDF Energy's Torness Power Station in Scotland, UK, and at Florida Power & Light's St. Lucie plant on Hutchinson Island in the US.

Cooling water

EDF Energy had to manually shut down both units at the plant "due to the high volumes of jellyfish fouling the cooling water screens," said the operator, adding that the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation had been briefed on developments.

"Reduced cooling water flows due to ingress from jellyfish, seaweed and other marine debris are considered as part of the station's safety case and are not an unknown phenomenon. At no time was there any danger to the public.

"There are no radiological aspects associated with this event and there has been no impact to the environment."

Three local trawlers ultimately helped clear the jellyfish from the vicinity of the Scottish plant. Meanwhile the Palm Beach Post provided a graphic account of the St. Lucie incident.

"Travelling through the pipes at about 4.6 mph, the jellyfishes' poisonous tentacles broke off," it said. "Trash rakes and large, rotating metal screens that prevent debris from getting into storage tanks could not keep pace with the influx of dying and dead jellyfish."

- See more at: http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/supply-chain/jellyfish-impact-nuclear-plant-operations

Wisconsin New Phosphorus Compliance Legislation Introduced

Earlier today, State Senators Cowles and Farrow, and State Representative Loudenbeck introduced legislation that creates a new option for point-source dischargers in Wisconsin complying with the state's strict numeric phosphorus water quality standard. Current law provides a point source three options to comply with phosphorus discharge limits: 1) install new technology to remove more phosphorus from wastewater flows, 2) utilize adaptive management or water quality trading, or 3) seek a traditional variance. The proposed legislation, LRB 3079, creates a fourth option for point source dischargers: opt into a legislated variance. Point sources that choose to opt into the legislated variance would be required to reduce the phosphorus they discharge to the extent practical, while also paying fees that will be directed to counties to use in working at the local level to reduce nonpoint contributions to Wisconsin's surface waters.

Jan 26, 2014

Dying Bees Are Building Nests With Our Waste Plastic

In a paper published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Ecosphere, researchers from York University and the University of Guelph in Canada explained that while plastic waste has previously been shown to have devastating impacts on the environment, less attention has been given to the resourcefulness of species in the face of their changing surroundings. "Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," they wrote. "Although adverse impacts on both species and ecosystems have been documented, there are few observations of behavioral flexibility and adaptation in species, especially insects, to increasingly plastic-rich environments."

Please continue reading Shared via feedly // published on Slashdot // visit site

Powering Phones, PCs Using biofuel cells use Sugar catalysts

A team of researchers at Virginia Tech University have developed a battery with energy density an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries, while being almost endlessly rechargeable and biodegradable as well – because it's made of sugar. The battery is an enzymatic biofuel fuel cell – a type of fuel cell that uses a catalyst to strip molecules from molecules of a fuel material. Instead of using platinum or nickel for catalysts, however, biofuel cells use the catalysts made from enzymes similar to those used to break down and digest food in the body. Sugar is a good fuel material because it is energy dense, easy to obtain and transport, and so simple to biodegrade that almost anything biological can eat it. Sugar-based fuel cells aren't new, but existing designs use only a small number of enzymes that don't oxidize the sugar completely, meaning the resulting battery can hold only small amounts of energy that it releases slowly. A new design that uses 13 enzymes that can circulate freely to get better access to sugar molecules, however, is able to store energy at a density of 596 amp-hours per kilogram – an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries, according to Y.H. Percival Zhang, who studies biological systems engineering at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. "Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature," Zhang said in a statement announcing publication in Nature Communications of his paper describing the battery. "So it's only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery."
Please continue reading Shared via feedly // published on Slashdot // visit site

Industrial Heat Has Acquired Andrea Rossi's E-Cat Technology #Renewable #Energy

RESEARCH TRIANGLE, N.C., Jan. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Industrial Heat, LLC announced today that it has acquired the rights to Andrea Rossi's Italian low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technology, the Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat).  A primary goal of the company is to make the technology widely available, because of its potential impact on air pollution andcarbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and biomass. 

"The world needs a new, clean and efficient energy source. Such a technology would raise the standard of living in developing countries and reduce the environmental impact of producing energy," said JT Vaughn speaking on behalf of Industrial Heat (IH). 

Mr. Vaughn confirmed IH acquired the intellectual property and licensing rights to Rossi's LENR device after an independent committee of European scientists conducted two multi-day tests at Rossi's facilities in Italy. 

The published report by the European committee concluded, "Even by the most conservative assumptions as to the errors in the measurements, the result is still one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources" [referring to energy output per unit of mass]. The report is available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913. In addition, performance validation tests we conducted in the presence of IH personnel and certified by an independent expert.

Please continue reading at The Sacramento Bee

Nearly half of NYC food banks run out of food when food stamps were cut by gov

Huffington Post - The $5 billion cut to food stamps that went into effect in November has forced struggling New Yorkers to turn to pantries for help, but many of the organizations simply can't afford to stock enough supplies on their shelves.

According to a report released by the Food Bank for New York City, 48 percent of emergency food providers ran out of food required for meals or pantry bags in November.

Please continue reading at Huffington Post

Not just China, One-third in state still live where air does not meet U.S. standards

latimes.com..."I don't think we should be too congratulatory because this year has been a bad year," said board member John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco.

In the South Coast region, which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties, the number of high-ozone days has dropped 21% since 2003 and state officials now estimate about 60% of people — including all coastal residents — live where smog meets federal health standards. But 6 million people in inland areas still live with unacceptably smoggy air.

In the San Joaquin Valley, only one-quarter of the population enjoys air quality that meets federal health standards for ozone. Though the number of high-ozone days in the valley has fallen 35% since 2003, some 3 million people live in areas where smog levels are too high, according to the air board's estimates.

Please continue reading

Aquion has started production of a low-cost sodium-ion battery aimed at making renewable energy viable.

A former Sony TV factory near Pittsburgh is coming to life again after lying idle for four years. Whirring robotic arms have started to assemble a new kind of battery that could make the grid more efficient and let villages run on solar power around the clock.

Aquion, the startup that developed the battery, has finished installing its first commercial-scale production line at the factory, and is sending out batteries for customers to evaluate. It recently raised $55 million of venture capital funding from investors including Bill Gates. The money will help it ramp up to full-speed production by this spring.

Jay Whitacre, the Carnegie Mellon professor of materials science and engineering who invented the new battery, says it will cost about as much as a lead-acid battery—one of the cheapest types of battery available—but will last more than twice as long. And while lead is toxic and the sulfuric-acid electrolyte in lead-acid batteries is potentially dangerous, the new battery is made of materials so safe you can eat them (although Whitacre says they taste terrible). Nontoxic materials are also a good fit for remote areas, where maintenance is difficult.

Most importantly, by providing an affordable way to store solar power for use at night or during cloudy weather, the technology could allow isolated populations to get electricity from renewable energy, rather than from polluting diesel generators. Combining solar power and inexpensive batteries would also be cheaper than running diesel generators in places where delivering fuel is expensive (see "How Solar-Based Microgrids Could Bring Power to Millions").

The batteries could allow the grid to accommodate greater amounts of intermittent renewable energy. As Aquion scales up production and brings down costs, the batteries could also be used instead of a type of natural gas power plant—called a peaker plant—often used to balance supply and demand on the grid. When recharged using renewables, the batteries don't need fuel, so they're cleaner than the natural gas power plants.

Please continue reading

Jan 25, 2014

Drinking Water Not Tested For Tens Of Thousands Of Chemicals

The Salt : NPR 

Jan 23, 2014

New Virus Associated With Massive Bee Die-Offs, Researchers Report

A rapidly mutating virus may be partially responsible for the massive bee die-offs known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), which has wiped out a third of commercial bee colonies annually for the past seven years, a group of U.S. and Chinese researchers reports. Most scientists, including the study's authors, believe CCD is triggered when colonies are weakened by a combination of factors, such as viruses, parasites, and perhaps pesticides. The study, published in the journal mBio, found in bees a variant of the tobacco ringspot virus, an RNA virus that likely jumped from tobacco plants, to soy plants, to bees. Weak bee colonies began succumbing to massive die-offs in autumn, and the researchers found those bees were heavily infected with tobacco ringspot — which is believed to affect honeybees' nervous systems — and other viruses. Strong colonies that made it through the winter showed no evidence of infection by tobacco ringspot. The researchers believe the virus jumped from plants to bees through "bee bread," a concoction of pollen, nectar, and saliva they feed their larvae. Bee infection by tobacco ringspot is the first known instance of a virus from pollen jumping to bees.
Please continue reading Visit website Shared via feedly // published on Yale Environment 360 // visit site

‘Big chill’ expected to stay until 2040 #polarvortex

"What happens as the cooling begins, the jet stream moves from west to east in very large waves, but the amplitude, that is the north-south orientation of those waves, increases. It's called a meridional pattern of weather, and that's why you see the record colds that you had in the U.S. recently, but also record warms," Ball explained.

"Look at eastern Australia as an example, or Siberia earlier in the winter. So if you imagine these waves where you've got cold air pushing toward the equator in one area, you've also got warmer air pushing further toward the poles in other areas. That's why you've got this increasing variability of the weather," said Ball, who noted that history tells us exactly what these conditions mean.

"If you look at the historic record, and I mean going over 10,000 years, this pattern occurs as the earth starts its cooling down process. And that's what's going to happen," he said. "We're going to be in this cooling until at least 2040."

Please continue reading


Jan 22, 2014

China Exports 20% of its Pollution to U.S., Study Finds

China is exporting more than just cheap products to the US… they're also exporting their pollution to California, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal. That pollution is contributing to extra smog in the Los Angeles area. A significant amount of Chinese pollution – 20 percent of it – comes from the export industry. Wind blows the smog across the Pacific Ocean in about six days, creating an increase of 12 to 24 percent in the daily sulfate concentrations along the West Coast. RT's Meghan Lopez takes a look at why China's boasts that they have lowered their pollution levels may mean they just exported that pollution to the US.
Please continue reading

4 killed as explosions rip through plants in 2 states |

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) – Explosions in two U.S. states, one at an animal feed plant in Nebraska and another at a steel plant in Oklahoma, killed at least four people and injured almost a dozen on Monday, authorities said.

An explosion and fire flattened part of an animal feed plant in Omaha, Nebraska, killing two people and injuring at least 10 others, authorities said.

In the Omaha incident, about 38 employees were working at the International Nutrition plant at midmorning when there was an explosion and part of the building collapsed, interim Fire Chief Bernard Kanger told a news conference.

One body has been recovered and the other is expected to be recovered on Tuesday from the industrial accident, Kanger said. Of the 10 injured, four were in critical condition, he said.

All employees have been accounted for, but authorities are not sure if there were any visitors in the plant, he said.

In a separate incident, two workers likely "burned to death" when a furnace exploded at about 4 p.m. local time at an Oklahoma steel plant, a Marshall County Sheriff's Office dispatcher said.

A third person was injured at Mid American Steel and Wire in Madill, Oklahoma, but treated for burns and released from a local hospital, said Madill Fire Department Fire Chief Keith Pruitt.

Please continue reading

Jan 21, 2014

The Asbestos Map of the United States

An Asbestos Map of the United States
As readers of this blog know, I find the naturally occurring poisons a fascinating subject. Without any help from us, remember, our planet is home to an astonishing variety of dangerous substances – arsenic and antimony, cadmium, lead, mercury, and ...
Shared via feedly // published on Wired Science » Science Blogs // visit site

India Is Building The World's Largest Solar Plant For $4.4 Billion

The Business Insider has an article on India's plan to build a 4 GW solar power plant in Rajasthan - India Is Building The World's Largest Solar Plant For $4.4 Billion.
Since 2010, India has hiked installed solar power capacity from a meagre 17.8 megawatts to more than 2,000MW, official figures show, as part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's aim to make "the sun occupy centre-stage" in the country's energy mix. Key to the progress has been a rapid fall in the cost per unit of solar electricity to close to what is known as "grid parity" -- the cost of conventional electricity generated by carbon-gas emitting coal. ... The next stage of expansion will see India build the world's largest solar plant to generate 4,000MW on the shores of a saltwater lake in the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan, which should drive solar power costs even lower. Operators believe economies of scale from the 280-billion-rupee ($4.4 billion) Sambhar plant to be constructed over the next seven years will reduce prices to 5.0-5.5 rupees a kilowatt-hour. "This is the first project of this scale anywhere in the world" and "is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power developments," said Ashvini Kumar, director of Solar Energy Corp, one of five public utilities that will run the plan... Shared via feedly // published on Peak Energy // visit site

Nanomaterial thermophotovoltaic system increases efficiency and portability of solar power

It's not a new idea to improve upon traditional solar cells by first converting light into heat, then reemitting the energy at specific wavelengths optimally tuned to the requirements of the solar cell, but this method has suffered from low efficiencies. However, new research at MIT using nanoscale materials finally shows how thermophotovoltaics could become competitive with their traditional cousins, and grant benefits such as storing solar energy in the form of heat to postpone conversion into electricity... Continue ReadingNanomaterial thermophotovoltaic system increases efficiency and portability of solar power 

Sugar batteries could be greener, cheaper and store more energy than lithium-ions [

Even today's best rechargeable lithium batteries do lose their ability to hold a charge after a while, and are considered toxic waste once discarded. In just a few years, however, they may be replaced by batteries that are refillable and biodegradable, and that will also have a higher energy density yet a lower price ... and they'll run on sugar. .. Continue Reading Sugar batteries could be greener, cheaper and store more energy than lithium-ions 

Jan 20, 2014

@Kohler helps @Caltech in quest to reinvent toilet for world's poor via @JournalSentinel

A boy walks to a latrine outside his makeshift home in a slum in Mumbai, India. The United Nations estimates that nearly  75 million people in India, and nearly 700 million worldwide, use unimproved toilets, while an additional 1 billion use no toilet at all.

Associated Press

A boy walks to a latrine outside his makeshift home in a slum in Mumbai, India. The United Nations estimates that nearly 75 million people in India, and nearly 700 million worldwide, use unimproved toilets, while an additional 1 billion use no toilet at all.

Aligning itself with a group of doctoral students in California and a Sheboygan-raised environmental chemistry professor, Kohler Co. is lending a hand to an effort to reinvent the toilet.

This may prompt you to snicker. Don't. It's not funny, and the fact that nice people avoid talking about human waste contributes to what is an enormous and deadly problem.

In India, for example, the United Nations estimates that more than 600 million people don't use toilets. They don't use latrines either. They go on the ground.

And that's just one country. While significant improvement has occurred over the last 20 years, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide still practice open defecation. Another 700 million use unhygienic facilities such as "hanging latrines" that discharge directly into streams, or buckets that may simply be emptied in the streets.

All told, estimates of annual deaths from diarrhea, the majority of them spawned by feces-contaminated water, range as high as 1.5 million. Most of the victims are under 5 years old.

"The statistics about the number of children that die every day from diarrhea-related diseases are shocking," said Robert Zimmerman, a Kohler engineer who is the Wisconsin-based firm's senior channel manager for sustainability.

Can Kohler help? The company is far better known for producing upscale bathroom fixtures — the firm's mission statement and marketing cite its dedication to "gracious living" — than for focusing on basic sanitation for the world's poor.

But Kohler also is among the world's five largest manufacturers of plumbing products, with 2011 sales in the category of $1.8 billion, according to market researcher The Freedonia Group. And when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, by far the country's biggest and most generous foundation, announced its attention-grabbing "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" in 2011, Kohler took notice.

Industry stagnant
It's been a long time since this field saw radical change. The modern flush toilet, author Rose George wrote in her 2008 book, "The Big Necessity," works in essentially the same way as the device invented in the late 1500s by Sir John Harington, a rakish English courtier, author and wit who installed one of his toilets for Queen Elizabeth I at her palace in Surrey.

And with advances in the late 18th and early 19th century, the flush toilet has worked pretty well and has contributed greatly in reducing disease and prolonging life — when it's well-connected. But it's not much help unless it feeds a system to treat the waste it swirls away. In much of the world, that sort of infrastructure doesn't exist, and may never exist.

"That's very, very expensive," said Doulaye Koné, an environmental engineer who grew up in a village in Africa's Ivory Coast and now is the Gates Foundation's senior program officer for water, sanitation and hygiene. "It's a huge capital investment. It's a very big operational cost.... It will work in very few (developing world) cities."

So the foundation called for off-the-grid designs without connections to water, sewer or electrical lines. It issued grants to eight universities, including one to the California Institute of Technology and a team led by environmental science professor Michael Hoffmann.

The plan: Develop a self-contained toilet and waste treatment system powered by a solar panel generating enough energy to store for use at night.

Kohler contacted Caltech and offered to supply fixtures for the prototype. In doing that, Zimmerman said, the company found out that Hoffmann was from Sheboygan — he'd graduated from North High School in the '60s — and knew Kohler well.

"It was good serendipity there," Zimmerman said.

Jan 17, 2014

Chemical Company Sues California Over Flame Retardants | Environmental Working Group

Oakland, Calif. – The chemical company Chemtura sued the state of California yesterday seeking to block new fire safety regulations that would permit furniture production without toxic flame retardants.   

The new rules, which Gov. Jerry Brown put into force last November  would allow furniture manufacturers to meet California's fire safety standards without using fire retardants chemicals, including those manufactured by Chemtura.   

"This lawsuit is a blatant attempt to protect the company's profits under the guise of concern for public safety," said Renee Sharp, EWG's director of research. "If successful, this lawsuit would undermine one of the most important environmental and public health victories of 2013 – Gov. Brown's move to revamp the state's outdated and problematic fire safety standards.  Previous fire safety rules did not effectively protect us from fire dangers, but they did contaminate our bodies and those of our children with chemicals linked to cancer and other serious dangers to health."

The new regulations are expected to have a significant impact nationwide for Chemtura' future profits because California, with 10 percent of the U.S. population, has so much purchasing power that most furniture makers fabricate their products to comply with the state's flammability standards.

Jan 16, 2014

Cyclone Waste heat engine finally moving to next commercialization phase

Cyclone Power Technologies developer of the all-fuel clean-tech Cyclone Engine,announced today that it has completed the in-house development and testing phase of its Waste Heat Engine (the WHE-DR) and, as planned, has transitioned the next commercialization and manufacturing phases of the program to The Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

The Waste Heat Engine is designed to run on heat as low as 500ºF from many different external sources of "wasted" heat such as:

* Commercial or small-scale industrial ovens or furnaces
* Landfill and industrial gas flares
* Engine exhaust – from vehicles or power generators
* Biomass combustion – dry, vegetative waste materials

The commercialization schedule has slipped a few years.

Read more more »

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Supervisor Gets $500 Fine For Falsifying Facility Records

The infamous 'scourge on insider-traders everywhere' Preet Bharara has taken a day off from Wall Street duties to focus on what could be considerably more of a concern. The NY Attorney General just disclosed that  Daniel Wilson - the Chemistry Manager at the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant - falsified and fabricated test results for diesel fuel contamination used to power emergency generators.. in order that the plant would not have to be shut down. Have no fear though US public... especially those who live near White Plains, Bharara's punishment for this potentially disastrous 'deliberate misconduct' - a $500 fine and 18 months probation. 

Please continue reading Shared via feedly // published on Zero Hedge // visit site

Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump.

Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump. The northern nation's scientific community has been up in arms over the holidays as local scientific libraries and records offices were closed and their shelves — some of which contained century old data — emptied into dumpsters. Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized. The scientists say, 'The people who use this research don't have any say in what is being saved or tossed aside.'
Please continue reading from Slashdot | shared via feedly mobile

EPA: Bristol Bay Mine Threatens World's Largest Salmon Fishery

Environment News Service], January 15, 2014 (ENS) – Proposed large-scale mining in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed would pose risks to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and Alaska Native cultures dependent on salmon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes in its final Bristol Bay Assessment released today.

The report, titled "An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska," is a scientific report, not a decision document, Dennis McLerran, regional administrator for EPA Region 10, told reporters on a conference call.

"The assessment is a technical resource for governments, tribes and the public as we consider how to address the challenges of large-scale mining and ecological protection in the Bristol Bay watershed," said McLerran.

"Over three years, EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources," McLerran said.

They are identified as mineral development areas by the State of Alaska."Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years," said McLerran. "It really is an extraordinary place."

Jan 15, 2014

MIT & Promises of Half-Price Gasoline from Natural Gas

MIT Technology ReviewAt a pilot plant in Menlo Park, California, a technician pours white pellets into a steel tube and then taps it with a wrench to make sure they settle together. He closes the tube, and oxygen and methane—the main ingredient of natural gas—flow in. Seconds later, water and ethylene, the world's largest commodity chemical, flow out. Another simple step converts the ethylene into gasoline.

The white pellets are a catalyst developed by the Silicon Valley startup Siluria, which has raised $63.5 million in venture capital. If the catalysts work as well in a large, commercial scale plant as they do in tests, Siluria says, the company could produce gasoline from natural gas at about half the cost of making it from crude oil—at least at today's cheap natural-gas prices.

If Siluria really can make cheap gasoline from natural gas it will have achieved something that has eluded the world's top chemists and oil and gas companies for decades. Indeed, finding an inexpensive and direct way to upgrade natural gas into more valuable and useful chemicals and fuels could finally mean a cheap replacement for petroleum.

Please continue reading

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out the #WaterSense H2Otel Challenge!

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) WaterSense program is rolling out the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge!  I encourage you to help recruit your lodging industry clients to encourage their participation in this excellent program.


I'm excited about WaterSense – it's poised to become a brand as well recognized as Energy Star. Our region isn't as pervasively sensitive to water conservation as some more parched areas of the country, but our drought episodes of recent years have created a greater awareness of the importance of becoming more parsimonious (there's your word for the day) in our water use.


Your program is one that has worked to promote resource conservation for many; this sector is trying to meet an increased demand for green lodging. As you know, hotel facility managers often don't have the resources or information they need to reduce their impact on the environment. EPA is launching the H2Otel Challenge to help lodging facilities save water, energy, and money—and I believe that your program benefits from helping to promote this effort.


WaterSense is encouraging lodging facilities to take the "guest work" out of saving water by challenging them to "ACT" (assess, change, and track):


  • Assess their water use and savings opportunities.
  • Change products or processes to incorporate more water-efficient models and methods.
  • Track their water use and savings.


EPA is offering a series of webinars and tools to help participating hotels learn how to assess water use in their facilities; identify savings opportunities; calculate the simple payback period for their investments; and track their results.


Your first "ask" of your lodging industry customers is a simple first step for promoting change: Interested hotels only need to take a pledge on the WaterSense website.


Join WaterSense Today

You may not yet know your organization is eligible to become a WaterSense promotional partner. Joining WaterSense is free and easy! WaterSense partnership connects you to a network of utilities, local governments, manufacturers, retailers and distributors, builders, and other organizations working to promote the WaterSense label and water efficiency. You will gain exclusive access to outreach and marketing resources to help you promote the H2Otel Challenge, WaterSense labeled products, and water efficiency. We encourage you to submit apartnership agreement to start benefiting from these resources today.


Informational Webinar

To learn more about WaterSense, the H2Otel Challenge, and how WaterSense can assist you in bringing the Challenge to your members, please register for our informational webinar on Thursday, January 16, 2014, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Central. For more information about saving water in hotels and other buildings, visit WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities


If you have any questions, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at watersense@epa.gov or 866-WTR-SENS (987-7367). I know they look forward to partnering with you!

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is all but forgotten

From my comment left at PeakEnergy (http://peakenergy.blogspot.com)

What an amazing and simple design to solve many problems, so Bucky.

-begin rant-
My problem with Bucky and 1,000's of others who left simple answers to problems and nearly all the breadcrumbs to figure everything else out, is that they're forgotten by the masses when looking for answers to modern problems.

The old phrase "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is all but forgotten

It is even more frustrating to me that "experts and mass media" in the energy fields seldom look to the past for answers and nearly ignore anything that isn't technical/sexy (see, sun solar lasers, hydrogen cars, carbon capture and solar roofs in winter climates as examples) 

You and I have been doing the "blog" thing for over a decade, I have been doing the environment/energy thing for nearly 2 decades and it seems like as the internet influence and over abundance of information grew, peoples willingness to read up on history dwindled.

I agree there is simply too much out there for the general audience, but it's there. 
Patents, reports, terabits of data and oh the wonderful books are an endless bounty of solutions to modern problems.

Over 100 years ago the majority or cars, factories & homes were powered by alternative energy, now it is at best 7% of entire mix. More troubling is that now mainstream media is on to it. Dragging the worst of the gimmicky, over teched, get rich quick green energy schemes to the surface of "what green energy is doing with our money" 

Sure most of us can brush off the obvious errors that 60 minutes did here and does on a regular basis (see 60 minutes fake benghazi story) but this has already cause more credibility damage to the industry than Al Gore pulling up to climate talks in limo/private jet.

Proven, cost effective, simple energy programs have been killed by over-technical grandiose ideas built on the idea of bringing profits before people/prosperity in the form of investor driven grants & subsides to line pockets. Turning our food into fuel and our water and fields into dust (see current China / U.S. 1950's)

Wind, water and solar energy inventions brought "sustainable" prosperity to nearly all modern civilizations before fossil fuels and they are nearly all but forgotten by modern energy news stories.

Fossil fuels not only killed logical, sustainable human growth and consumption levels, it started killing our planet and our people.

What is the industry lesson here? 
READ, listen, question, test, and apply what WORKS under current conditions. It is NOT rocket science, so stop trying to use rocket science to solve energy & environmental problems (rocket science is a very dirty, energy intensive field :-).

These are all proven and done:
60 mpg 8 passenger cars (Since 1930's)
200 mpg 2 passenger cars (Since 1980's)
Solar electric taxi's for cities (Since 1920)
Wind powered rail (shuttles) for people (Since 1930's) 
Zero waste/zero landfill cities/communities (Always can)
Homes that are cheaper than cars that can weather any storm (Since 1940's)  
Buildings/Industry powered by water, heated by earth and cooled by wind (Since 1800's)
Giant ships moving across vast oceans without using a drop of fuel (Since 1700's)

-end rant-

But this wasn't a negative rant. Solar is booming, wind grid stability/storage methods improving and if we focus on the low hanging fruits of waste to energy, geothermal, ocean, passive buildings and heat recovery energy, we can beat fossil fuel markets.

We have proven that we have energy/environmental solutions, enough wealth, food and water for everyone on the planet.
The problem: "you can lead a politician to a solution, but you can make him think" - Haase

Be well in 2014 BigGav and thanks for a decade of sharing your great ideas and historic information.
Please share your comments and well wishes to BigGav at:

Jan 13, 2014

Five years after the deadly explosion in the BAYER Institute plant, West Virginia still ignores a plan for tougher chemical oversight which was worked out by the Chemical Safety Board

Five years after the deadly explosion in the BAYER Institute plant, West Virginia still ignores a plan for tougher chemical oversight which was worked out by the Chemical Safety Board.

Meanwhile, 300,000 residents are still without usable water after a chemical spill.

From January 12, 2014, Charleston Gazette

State ignored plan for tougher chemical oversight
Three years ago this month, a team of federal experts urged the state of West Virginia to help the Kanawha Valley create a new program to prevent hazardous chemical accidents.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board recommended the step after its extensive investigation of the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute.

Since then, the proposal has gone nowhere. The state Department of Health and Human Resources hasn't stepped in to provide the legal authority the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department needs to start such a program. And Kanawha County officials never funded the plan, and seldom mention that the CSB recommendation was even made.

Now, with more than 300,000 residents across the Kanawha Valley without usable water following a chemical accident at Freedom Industries on the Elk River, some local officials say it's time for action.

"We'd had their recommendation on the books for several years now," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the local health department. "This gives us another opportunity to look at what they recommended."

Please read and follow:

See "CSB Issues Report on 2008 Bayer CropScience Explosion: Finds Multiple Deficiencies Led to Runaway Chemical Reaction; Recommends State Create Chemical Plant Oversight Regulation "